What’s a campanile?Campanile is the Italian word for a bell tower, deriving from the word campana, which means bell. In English it’s mostly used to refer to a bell tower which is free-standing, or unattached to the church or building it belongs to. The tallest campanile is in Mortegliano, and it stands 371 feet (113.2m) tall, so at 323 feet (98.6m), St Mark’s Campanile isn’t too far off the record!
What’s special about St Mark’s Campanile?The original tower in St Mark’s Square was built in the 9th century CE and served as a watchtower or lighthouse for the nearby dock. Over the years it was rebuilt and repaired several times after damage from fires and earthquakes until it became the version we see today in 1513. That version collapsed in 1902 but was rebuilt to the exact dimensions of its predecessor (albeit with a brand-new elevator). The tower is home to the church’s 5 bells, each of which has a particular use. The Nona still rings out at noon, and the Marangona still rings out at the beginning and end of the working day. The other bells had specific uses during the Republic of Venice: the Mezza Terza announced sessions of the Senate, the Trottiera called council members to meetings, and the Renghiera, also known as the Maleficio rang out to announce executions. The campanile has inspired similar towers in Australia, the USA, Germany, Spain, and many more.
What can you see from the top?From the top of St Mark’s Campanile, you get an unparalleled view of the domes of St Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and everything else in the Piazza San Marco. You also get a wonderful view of the lagoon, and on a clear day, you’ll be able to spot the islands of Giudecca, San Giorgio, Murano, and Lido in the distance.
I hate elevators, can I climb the stairs?Unfortunately, the only way to access the campanile is by elevator. There are stairs, but they are only to be used in emergencies and for maintenance.